Batavia care facility residents, staff excited for COVID-19 vaccine priority

BATAVIA, Ill. (WLS) -- In Batavia, news that long-term care facilities should be a priority when distributing the COVID-19 vaccine has buoyed spirits at Covenant Living at the Holmstad, a continuous care facility that includes long-term care.

"I'm excited for our community here, for sure," said Paul Bengtson, a resident at the Holmstad.

Bengtson is in independent living - not long-term care - but Holmstad administrators expect the entire campus to be a priority when the vaccine is distributed.

The Centers for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), recommended this week that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should be the first to receive the vaccine nationwide. Now it's up to governors and state health departments to execute the recommendations.

Although Bengtson supports frontline workers getting the first doses, he's hopeful the vaccine eventually means more family time with his three kids and nine grandchildren.

"I'm just a big teddy bear. I really miss that with our own children. My daughter, my granddaughters, so it's going to change our life," he said about the vaccine.

Residents and staff members at the Michaelson Health Care Center, Holmstad's long-term care facility, will be a central focus, but administrators are still waiting for state guidance on the vaccine's rollout.

"We know it's coming and yet, just like everything in 2020, there's just so much uncertainty around it," said Karen Pahlke, Holmstad's associate executive director. "There is a cautious optimism. We are really just eager to hear the details."

Pahlke said the Holmstad campus has not had any deaths or community spread of Covid-19.

Across Illinois, according to the state department of public health, there have been more than 6,000 deaths because of Covid-19 at long-term care facilities. Even though facility residents make up just 7% of the state's COVID cases, they make up just over half of COVID deaths in Illinois.

At the Holmstad, residents feel grateful they've stayed healthy.

"We will just be as cautious as we need to be to stay safe, but I think I'll be grateful to have a vaccine, if it's protective as they indicate it will be," said Patti Franklin, another independent living resident.

Whether the vaccine is for those in independent living or long-term care at Covenant Living at the Holmstad, the news has traveled quickly.

"It will change our life," said Bengtson, "no doubt about it."
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